Better Speech and Hearing Month · Vocabulary

Everybody Says Don’t!

In the spirit of Better Speech and Hearing Month, I’d like to highlight some words I don’t allow in my speech room. I’m working on eliminating them from my own vocabulary in everyday conversation. Now, if you work in this field, and even if you don’t, you may know that words have power. This is true, but I’d like to change this to communication has power. Words only have power if you give them  intention and meaning. In grad school, we’re taught about morphology, the smallest unit of language containing meaning, and that the only meaningful language is that born out of intent. Because language is so powerful, I’d like to talk about some every day words and phrases that have no place in my speech room.

  1. “Just.”  As an adverb, according to Merriam-Webster, it means “simply; only; no more than.” This word annoys me, disgusts me, and yet I use it all the time. It is a personal goal of mine to erase it from my vocabulary. This word undermines all that we do, have done, and will do. To preface ANYTHING with this word automatically decreases the value of whatever follows. Examples: “Just another IEP.” “Just another day.” “Just another student.” I have so many issues with this use of this word. Everything we get to do, say, see, experience–they’re all novel, with their own value. I promise you someone in whatever experience you’re currently in values that experience in some way. Using this word to describe said experience is demeaning. To my fellow speech pathologists: How many times have we heard, “It’s just one speech session, can’t he miss today?” No. Because our job and the student’s progress is important. Because an IEP is a legal document dictating a student’s service provision. And how much have you liked being called “just” a speech pathologist? Right–all we do is observe, assess, diagnose, treat, take notes, write progress reports, write IEPs, create goals, make learning engaging, and make the world more accessible among hundreds of other things I am forgetting to include at this moment. Also, no IEP meeting is “just” an IEP meeting. They’re all important, with valuable material to discuss and share with the team, the family, the administrator–you name it. Suffice it to say, we do not use this word in the speech room. My students and myself are more than “just.” See also: “little” as an adverb, “only” as an adverb.
  2. “I’m sorry.” Okay, this phrase has a caveat. This is allowed in the speech room when used to serve as an apology when one person has wronged another. Outside of this use, it’s not permitted in my speech room. This is personally one of my goals for 2017–stop apologizing for myself. People that know me tell me to stop using this phrase on an almost daily basis. I am encouraging my students and friends to do the same. I have found myself and my students time and again apologizing for things that 1) they genuinely aren’t sorry for and 2) personality traits that they shouldn’t be apologizing for. When used appropriately this phrase is absolutely acceptable in the speech room. When I use it to apologize for an action that is a part of my personality or when a student does so, I ask them why. Why do we find it necessary to apologize for something that has created no harm or offense? I’ve noticed my students use it when asking for help, and that makes them feel that asking for help is wrong. We all know this is not the case. I’m fortunate enough to have a support system that calls me out when I apologize for being myself, and I do the same for my students. Be unapologetically you. You are the only you this world has, and there is absolutely no reason to apologize for your personality. Will you fit  in with everyone? No. Should you apologize for this? Absolutely not.
  3. “For.”For wasn’t even on my radar until my most recent guest on the blog, John McGinty, pointed it out. “For is a dangerous word. It means you’re beneath them.” Think about it–when you say “I’m here for you,” you generally mean you’re supporting someone. The goal, I’ve found, in supporting others is helping them carry their weight, or helping them get to where they need to be. Instead, I say “I support you no matter what,” “I’m in your corner,” and “I’m with you on this one.” This way, you are equal to the other person while maintaining that you support them, their needs, and their accomplishments. For my students, I tell them “I’m here to be on your team.” They know we’re equal, and that the playing field is a level one. Neither one of us is any less than the other, and we’re both working towards mastering a goal together.

Are there words you take issue with? What did I leave out? Let me know in comments. I challenge you to go at least twenty four hours without using these words with these meanings.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

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